KIEV — Ukraine’s president ordered a top-level inquiry today after a night of violence in a small southern town in which people angered by the rape of a local woman in which they said police were involved attacked a police headquarters with petrol bombs.
The protests, prompted by suspicions one of the policemen involved was being protected because of family connections, came at an awkward time for the former Soviet republic. The European Union is pressing Ukraine to eradicate corruption and bias in the police and judiciary to improve its chances of signing landmark political and trade deals with the bloc in November.
Several hundred people took to the streets in Vradiyevka, 400 kilometres south of the capital Kiev, after reports circulated of the attack on a 29-year-old shop assistant who said she was beaten and raped by two policemen after being grabbed on a street and forced into a taxi.
Video footage at the scene showed police cowering back as mobs tried to force their way into the main police building and used metal bars to beat in windows and a metal perimeter fence. Police used what appeared to be pepper-spray to force them back.
Part of the building was ablaze in the early hours of today after petrol bombs were thrown. Angry crowds were still demonstrating in the town in mid-afternoon despite a visit by the regional governor to calm them.
“What happened last night is a wake-up call,” Vitaly Klitschko, the world boxing champion-turned-politician, told parliament which interrupted a discussion on European integration to hear reports on the overnight unrest.
“The impunity of law enforcement authorities has caused a people’s rebellion,” Klitschko said.
President Viktor Yanukovich, who is already at odds with the EU over the jailing of his main political opponent former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, told security chiefs urgently to investigate the incidents and violence.
Authorities announced that the regional prosecutor as well as the heads of the regional and town police had been sacked. (Reuters)